Why do they all look like Ben Stiller?

Today I had my first adventure with a tabletop role-playing game.  A friend of mine used to play these games a lot as a kid, and even developed his own version.  (Honestly, is anyone surprised that a nerd like me has nerd friends?)  When I mentioned I had never played, he set up a game with a couple of us so I could give it a try.

Developing my character was a lot of fun.  I had to roll some unusual dice (a d4 and a couple of d10s) many times to discover my basic characteristics, from which I came up with the details.  It also allowed for some very fun contemplation of back story and goals.  Since I enjoy creating characters for my stories, this just became an extension of that.

From there, my friend took over, combining my story and the other player’s story into something that allowed us both to work towards our goals, made some sense, and – at least in this case – had a reasonably quick ending.  Since neither of us were sure that I would want to continue this after today’s foray, he created a story that could be finished in one gaming effort.

Of course, since I didn’t know anything more than my own story – the other guy playing had his own story as well, although he knew more of mine than I did of his – there were a few times that I got a bit confused.  The weirdest part was when nearly every male in the story looked like Ben Stiller.  One of my old coworkers looked like Mr. Stiller, the other player’s character looked like Ben (albeit significantly shorter), and then we got to a farmhouse where two other characters stepped out wearing Ben Stiller’s face!

It turned out that all of the Ben Stillers were aliens in disguise, but it took a bit for me to figure that out.

Needless to say, it was quite fun, and there is a good chance that we will play again.  (Maybe next time we won’t fight aliens!)

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Word Games

I love playing word games.  I’m currently in the midst of 5 different games of Words With Friends on Facebook.  I do the Sunday crossword in the newspaper every week.  (Getting the Sunday paper delivered is my current decadent-yet-cheap splurge.)  I love Quiddler and Take One, although playing with my family (especially Grandma O) is not good for the ego.  I also learned a fun word logic game from a friend in high school that I will still play when someone is willing to accept the challenge.

My big hang-up with some of the games is getting fixated on a word.  This is especially bad in Quiddler, where the point is to make words with all of the letters in your hand as quickly as possible.  If you’re waiting on that one letter to make that one word you’re obsessed with, someone else might make a bunch of tiny words, go out, and you’ll end up eating your high-point letters.  There is strategy in waiting to see if you get the higher-value letters, but it only works if you already have something you can do with the cards in your hand.

I’m working on getting through the single-word obsession, though.  Last night I wanted to play “kopje” but decided against it, using “joke” instead so I could make another word with the p.  “Joke” wasn’t as interesting, but at least I got all the points and kept a good card in play.

It’s probably best to save my interesting vocab words for my writing, and use the shorter, more common words for my word games.

Playing Games

I love board games, but there is something you should know about me before you challenge me to one.

I love to win, and when I do I almost always have winner’s guilt.  The first part has always been true, but the second part is a recent development.

Growing up, my goal was always to beat my dad.  He’s my benchmark for intelligence, as it were.  As I got better at games, my mom and sister refused to let my dad and me play on the same team.  (Honestly, it was more fun for me that way, too, because then I got to try to beat him.)  There was never any guilt, no hard feelings when someone won.

I went to high school with a bunch of smart kids.  We played games a lot, and again, I never felt bad winning or losing.  If I lost, well, let’s play again!  (The only exception for me was chess.  I mostly stopped playing chess in high school, because it is a patient, plotting kind of game and I have no skill at that.  When you know you have no chance of winning, there’s no incentive to play.)

College was the same.  I tried my best to trounce my guy friends at Risk, and sometimes I would actually win.  There were two of us who were much more serious about it, and the game often boiled down to the two of us.  (Everyone else would eventually leave.)

So where did this winner’s guilt come from?  My ex.  We played a lot of board games.  Truth be told, he was a party pooper when it came to games.  If we got a new one and he didn’t win at least once in the first few times we played, he’d never play that game again.  He was also really good at making me feel bad if he lost.  I came up with lots of creative and sneaky ways to let him win, so he’d be happy and still play the game.  (He didn’t do the same in reverse; there were two games I refused to play with him because he always won and wasn’t very nice about it.)

Now that he’s not in my life, I’m finding it an interesting challenge to get rid of my winner’s guilt.  It helps that my friends are having none of this silly “I’m sorry I won” response.  They want me to be a worthy competitor, and they don’t mind playing again even if I trounce them occasionally. 🙂